Construction of mini hydro power plants in the Carpathians – Zakarpattia region (up to 330 plants), Ivano-Frankivsk region (50-150 plants), Lviv region (up to 20) – is currently a hot and actively discussed topic. Construction of hydro power plants is not a new phenomenon for Ukraine as it has been performed since 1950s-1960s. Until now there are up to 48 small hydro power plants majority of which need reconstruction. Among these are Tereble-Rykska, Hayvoronska, Korsun’-Shevchenkivska, Steblivska, Ladyzhynska and others. In terms of technical state the functioning hydro power plants are characterized by shabby hydropower, hydro technical and electro technical equipment; flaws in constructions of pressure front that cause accidents; silting of water bodies, increased use of water for non-energy needs; erosion of fortifications etc. It is obvious that the state cannot solve these problems and by amending the Law of Ukraine “On Electric Energy” and authorizing the National commission of regulating electric energy in Ukraine to adopt the Procedure of establishing, reviewing and termination of “green” tariff for subjects of economic activity will further complicate the problems.
Thus, what is positive about construction of five hundred mini hydro power plants in the Carpathians?
- construction of small hydro power plants will help improve the situation with electricity supply for numerous consumers;
- mini hydro power plants using natural water pressure do not cause adverse impact on the environment;
- using “green” tariff the population will buy energy at the price 21.04 – 36.48 kop./kWatt/h.
Now detailed information about adverse impact of such construction:
- hindrance for fish spawning;
- extinction or approach to the edge of extinction of rare species of fish registered in the Red Book of Ukraine: brook trout, Danube salmon, grayling and other inhabitants of local water bodies;
- drying out of water in rivers;
- pollution of rivers (grates installed to prevent fish from getting into turbines also catch trash (plastic things, wooden debris etc.) carried by river current;
- flood threats, damage of dams during floods,
- ruined mountain landscapes, loss of tourist attractiveness and source of income for local residents;
- possible change of a river-bed;
- change of target allocation of lands of water fund into lands of energy industry.
If negative consequences so much overweigh positive ones, why do private entrepreneurs and legal bodies got so interested in simultaneous and extremely speedy construction of hydro power plants? Most probably they live only for themselves and use categories of one-day profit ignoring consequences of such activities in a decade and environmental situation their children and grandchildren will live in. The state also supports this process ensuring win-win option: your task is to construct and the object will pay back in 2-3 years. Moreover, until 2030 the state provides subsidy by buying the energy at the price of 88.08 kop./Kwatt/h, but you have to hurry up – the coefficient of “green” tariff for electric power launched into exploitation (or considerably modernized) after 2014, 2019 and 2024 will be decreased by ten, twenty and thirty percents correspondingly! Therefore, the state provides a number of privileges to producers of “green” energy starting from tax privileges up to special tariffs. According to Tax Code, producers have income tax exemption until 2020 and equipment and materials are VAT exempt. Also, according to the law “On land of energy industry and legal regime of special zones of energy objects”, the payment for land rent for them was decreased by 70%. Who of so called “new Ukrainians” will miss such a chance?! Moreover, the land rented for construction of mini hydro power plants continues being used by the lessee who can do on it whatever he likes since agreements for land rent are concluded for maximum period – up to 50 years.
If we consider foreign experience of construction of hydro power plants, there are considerable differences. For example, in Australia and other European countries construction of hydro power plants last for a few years proceeded by another 5-10 years of research, exploration and calculations in order to consider all environmental factors, decrease impact on the environment as much as possible in order to construct the safest for the nature and people hydro power plant. Moreover, the hydro power plants are much smaller and constructed at big distances form each other. Recently in Austria there have been a reverse process: mini hydro power plants are bought from private owners and demolished with the hope that the nature will recover. A push to this was given by the conclusion stating that the profit in fact is tiny while the damage caused to the nature is huge and irreversible. In contrast to this, in Ukraine it takes a few months to get all approvals for construction works, it is stated that there is no adverse impact on the environment, and the equipment is improper – protective nets have either so small holes that collect all rubbish or the holes are so big that the rubbish together with fish gets into a turbine. Entrepreneurs select the projects that will bring them maximum income. Also, when selecting locations for construction they do not consider potential environmental damage, do not take into consideration natural and geological conditions; construction projects are thoroughly concealed from the public and especially NGOs and owners and entrepreneurs avoid communication with mass media. Dam construction and utilization of big amounts of water by derivational hydro power plants and the fact that then this water is dumped under pressure somewhere else can cause balance break and change of a river-bed, slide and erosion processes, which are already a big problem for the Carpathians. The strangest thing is that the state not only fails even to try to stop ruining of the Carpathians, but even promises to investors to pay for energy produced in this way.
Environmental organizations announced the launch of the national campaign aimed at protection of Carpathian rivers under the motto “Prevent damaging of the Carpathian nature caused by construction of mini hydro power plants! – Let’s save the Carpathians form mini hydro power plants, let’s save mini hydro power plants for green energy!” They do not protest against construction and functioning of mini hydro power plants, they fight for lawful, consistent and well-thought over steps on the way to development and usage of alternative energy. They do it not in vain since communities of villages have the right to influence the process of making such decisions. Much depends on people – whether local tycoons will manage to make huge profit on the beauty of the Carpathians and naivety of local residents, whether our descendants will be able to enjoy beautiful landscapes and speedy mountainous rivers that exist so far, whether fish and other living organisms will stay in water …Therefore, we have to think twice before giving consent to construction of something that is not needed and is in improper place.